Relationship damage happens when comparing wife to affair partner or when comparing husband to affair partner. Don't do it!
There are many steps after the affair that are required for healing. One of the biggest of all the steps you need to take as you and your partner are getting over an affair is psychological healing.
Comparisons to the Outside Lover Are Devastating
As a professional couple and family therapist, I have heard the words "I cheated on my wife" or "I cheated on my husband" many times.
Your cheating is not JUST a betrayal of the sanctity and safety of your marriage or committed relationship, but you also cheated your partner of his or her relationship self-confidence.
After the affair is over, meaning you have ended it with your outside lover and you have decided to stay married, you have a lot of fixing to do.
Trust, security, and your normalcy have all been shattered because of your infidelity.
Your partner thinks that you have cheated because you have found someone better than him or her. The results of your partner's thinking is that he or she compares himself or herself to your outside lover. And without your help, your partner will continue to compare and conclude that he or she is inferior or worthless.
If your partner is a woman, then she thinks your paramour must be more beautiful, more sexy and fun.
If your partner is a man, then he thinks your paramour has more money, is cooler, and can take better care of you.
This is one of the primary reasons surviving infidelity is so difficult — your partner's self-worth goes up in smoke.
Getting over an affair includes rebuilding your partner's self-esteem.
Psychological damage caused by an affair
Surviving an affair requires that you repair the psychological damage your relationship infidelity has caused to your partner.
You need to reestablish in the mind of your partner your sincere desire to be with him or her because you want him or her in your life.
Your partner fears that you might only be staying in the relationship because of the children, social pressure, financial benefits or because you have been rejected by your outside lover.
None of these reasons will give your legitimate partner the security he or she needs to get past your betrayal.
Your partner needs to know that the reason you are ending your affair and choosing to stay in your marriage is because you want to reconnect with him or her and share a life together.
Anything less than this will not work. Your cheating will remain an open wound, and your partner will probably compare himself or herself to your outside lover for many years after the affair has ended.
It is not the comparison itself that is so deadly. Rather it is your spouse feeling that your paramour is better and more desirable.
Healing from an affair
Getting over an affair includes convincing your spouse that he or she is preferable in all ways compared to your outside lover.
It is necessary to tell your partner that he or she is preferable over your lover — but this alone is insufficient. You need to prove it with deeds.
The following are some actions that you can take that demonstrate your partner that he or she is your number one person:
- If your partner requests that you attend marriage therapy sessions, cooperate and respect his or her need.
- If your partner has questions, when you answer them make sure that you are respectful and sensitive and that you take full responsibility for what happened.
- Be willing to give time to your partner in whatever way is needed to help him or her recover after the affair is over.
- Willingly sacrifice your 'privacy' so your partner can reassure himself or herself that you are no longer in contact with your lover.
"I cheated on my wife," needs to be followed with… "And I came to understand through all of this that my wife is the best woman in the world."
"I cheated on my husband," needs to be followed with… "And I came to understand that my husband is the best man in the world."
When these words are followed by concrete actions, then your partner knows you are getting over the affair because you love him or her.
When your partner sees that you're willing to put him or her first and do what he or she needs to assist in getting over an affair, he or she will be convinced by your actions that you are choosing him or her over your paramour.
An offending partner who cheated proves commitment to the marriage when he or she willingly parts with money and time for healing and recovery. This is an essential step required for successfully surviving an affair.
Most often the assistance of a relationship professional who specializes in infidelity is required to help you survive infidelity. Below are sources where you can find qualified therapists.
Get the tools you need to survive infidelity:
About the author
Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT., is a Registered Social Worker, Registered Couple and Family Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, and award-winning Educator. He has a busy clinical practice in Toronto, Canada and throughout the world using the phone or Zoom.
After many years of clinical practice and research, Abe concluded that practical solutions requiring a focused effort of no more than a few minutes a day for very specific relationship problems were critically needed. GoSmartLife Publishing House has been created to fill this need.